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Nepal: Humanitarian Transition Appeal 2009
Following a decade of civil conflict (1996-2006), Nepal has undergone extensive political transition. The country was declared a Federal Democratic Republic on 28 May 2008, ending 240 years of monarchy. Against this change and hopes for lasting peace, however, lies extreme vulnerability caused by years of violence, frequent natural disasters and displacement.
Eight million Nepalese live in poverty and 40 percent of the population is undernourished. Child malnutrition rates rank among the highest in the world, with nearly one out of two children suffering stunted growth. In 2008, severe flooding in eastern and western regions affected more than 250 000 people. On 18 August, the Koshi River burst its eastern embankment, inundating four Village Development Committees in Sunsari district. Heavy rains followed from 19 to 21 September, which spread further flood damage to mid- and far-western regions. Some 50 000 people remain displaced. Soaring food and commodity costs also caused vulnerability to skyrocket in 2008. The number of people in need of food assistance (2.7 million) increased by 1.4 million over the course of the past year.
Nepal is a food deficit country despite the fact that agriculture is the primary contributor to economic growth. Recurrent natural disasters and years of conflict have severely jeopardized food production and thus the livelihoods of millions of rural poor. The 2009 Humanitarian Transition Appeal for Nepal, launched on 19 January, seeks USD 115 million to provide emergency, preparedness and transition support within a 12-month timeframe to assist Nepalese most in need. Based on increased food insecurity and the higher cost of inputs and transport, financial requirements for food- and nutrition-related interventions have risen by 12 percent of overall funding needs as compared with 2008.
Challenges facing food security and livelihoods
Three-quarters of Nepal’s population depends on agriculture for its livelihood – many as subsistence farmers. However, most households only produce enough to meet their basic food needs for three to six months. Livelihoods are continually at risk as Nepal is frequently struck by natural disasters and situated in one of the world’s most seismically active zones. The steep rise in global costs has deepened pockets of poverty. This has exhausted farmers’ ability to afford livelihood inputs as well as to buy produce to supplement their food needs.
Among the extreme poor, 90 percent of households faced a food shortage this season. Although a large proportion of flood-affected families have returned to their villages, many have not received crop and livestock support packages to recover their livelihoods. Further, displacement has placed strain on the already scarce resources of host communities. Without support to rehabilitate the agriculture sector, the poorest segments of Nepal’s population will plunge further into poverty and malnutrition, particularly women and children. Urgent action is needed to ensure that families dependent on agriculture receive inputs to restart production, generate income and increase their resilience to future shocks.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working with Government institutions, farmers and herders in Nepal for over 50 years. As the lead United Nations agency for agriculture, FAO offers technical expertise to strengthen food security, from improving practices in the field, to building capacity at institutional level to better support needs within the sector. Within the framework of the 2009 Humanitarian Transition Appeal for Nepal, FAO has requested USD 4.2 million to improve the food security of households most affected by natural disasters, conflict and global price increases. With donor funding, FAO’s activities will:
- carry out needs assessments to confirm priorities in the crop and livestock sectors;
- supply farmers with quality production assets (seeds, tools, fertilizer) to restore food production;
- deliver veterinary inputs to safeguard the health and productivity of livestock; and
- provide training and technical guidance on improved crop and livestock practices as well as disaster preparedness and mitigation.